Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

sunshine The first time I read Sunshine was 10 years ago right after the release of Breaking Dawn. Let’s just say that Breaking Dawn left a lot to be desired.  I can’t remember if it was Kate who suggested Sunshine or if it was our friend Elizabeth but it was one of those “read this if you want to read a good vampire novel after a really bad one”.  I did and it is.  I loved it as much now as I did back then.  It was just as suspenseful, mysterious, funny and kind of sexy even if there isn’t much of a romance going on.  Rae “Sunshine” Seddon is as normal as one can be living in New Arcadia after the Voodoo Wars.  She makes the best cinnamon rolls at Charlie’s Coffeeshop.  Her whole life revolves around the coffeeshop.  Things change when she decides to take a drive out to the lake and is kidnapped by Vampires and is sucked into an old school feud between two very old and very different vampires.  She also discovers that she isn’t so normal after all.  She happens to be the daughter of a powerful sorcerer and has powers of her own.  When she saves herself and Constantine with her sunshine power her life is turned upside down.  She deals with it pretty well with a lot of dark humor and a great supporting cast.  Constantine is everything that Edward is not.  He doesn’t try to pretend he’s anything that he isn’t.  He’s considerate and thoughtful.  Many times he could have taken advantage of Sunshine but doesn’t.  In the end he realizes that he needs her as much as she needs him.  As for their relationship status, who knows.  There is definitely a connection between them.  It’s more than just the bond from healing each other but also surviving multiple traumatic events.  They are definitely two friends who have a deep respect for each other and continue to challenge each other.  Let’s go back to Sunshine.  In someways it’s unfair to compare her to Bella because Sunshine is an adult and Bella is not.  Sunshine has more life experience that when she makes decisions she knows how much is going to effect her and the people she cares about.  She also sees that she is an impossible situation that doesn’t give her any good choices to choose from.  She is self aware to know herself but also what is going on around her.  While Constantine does take up a lot of time and thinking he doesn’t become the center of her life.  She keeps her family and friends close and many of them actually help her to understand what is going on and give her the tools to defeat the evil vampire.  Her support system is truly key. Not just to help her through killing vampires but also help her heal from her traumatic experience too.  I think that’s important part of the story.  Constantine is a powerful vampire but he couldn’t take on The Evil Vampire on his own.  He needed Sunshine.  Sunshine would not been able to deal with what happened to her without the support of her stepfather, Charlie, her boyfriend Mel, Her Mom, Her landlady, Yolande, her friend Aimil, her other friends and SOF agents, Pat, Jesse and Theo.  Whether or not they knew it, they all played a roll in defeating The Evil Vampire and keeping Constantine and Sunshine alive.  It was a group effort but also a reminder that no matter what is going on in your life.  You are never truly alone.  So yes, Sunshine is a great vampire novel and deserves more props.

Review: Embassytown by China Mieville

9780345524508_p0_v1_s550x406 The last book of my Pop Culture Assignment and I don’t even know where to begin.  There is a lot going on and I think it needed a glossary for all the new terms he made up for this world.  Our Protagonist Avice, is an immerser that knows how to control the immer but it was never really explained what that is but it has to do with space travel.  Her ability allowed her to leave Embassytown and return but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Avice is from a colony in the middle of nowhere.  There lives an mysteries species called the Hosts that have a peculiar way of communication called language.  Only few people know and few can speak it.  The few who can are Ambassadors are two people modified to think as one.  It’s complicated.  Avice has a rare place in language as she was once used as a simile.  The Hosts can not lie.  They can only speak the truth so for something to be said it must has a place in the world so they make people or things a simile to help explain things.  It’s very complicated.  Anyway, Avice leaves Embassytown only to return with a new husband who is a linguist and seems more interested in language than Avice but whatever.  As soon as they return things get crazy.  The end of the world crazy.  The nation that oversee them decides to bring in their own Ambassador and well, things don’t go as planned and all hell breaks loose.

It was an interesting read but it was very confusing.  I felt like so many things that were left unexplained like the immer that we are just expected to understand.  Language too is very complicated that it does take the whole book to understand but that also might have been the point.  It took a while to get into because the world building was immense and once I got past that I really enjoyed it.  I was still left confused on several things but still enjoyed it.

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

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This novel started off well. Amanda, a high schooler, is sure her mother has been kidnapped by a serial killer who has been stalking the streets of San Francisco for the past few months. Then, the story flashes back to before the first of the murders and you get to meet Amanda (who is a little bratty, but lovable), her grandfather (who is awesome), her mom, Indiana (who is flighty) and Amanda’s online friends who all play an online role-playing game called Ripper. Indiana is a healer at a clinic (she does massage, magnets, and aromatherapy) and some of her patients, her ex-husband and his secretary, her former in-laws, and her boyfriend figure into the tale as well.

 

This novel had a huge cast. Maybe its the Summer of Novels with Huge Casts?

 

I liked this well enough at the beginning. But, the more of it I got through, the more there was about it to dislike. I wasn’t really sure what was going on with the online role-playing game. Also, Indiana was a little grating. Finally, there is a twist at the end that was soapy, stereotypical and garbage-like and then another twist that was telegraphed and obvious. Meh. On the positive side, Edoardro Ballerini who read the audiobook did an excellent job of

 

I wanted to like this book, because I’ve liked other Isabel Allende books in the past, but it wasn’t for me. For everything that was good about it, there was at least one thing that was equally bad or worse about it. I was not a fan.

Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

9780441478125_p0_v2_s550x406I’m not sure where to begin because there is so much here and hard to explain.  The assignment is examine how Ursula K. Le Guin uses language to tell her story.  The language is very lush and full of descriptions of the strange world of Winter.  A harsh world that is like living on the Artic in our world.  The people of this world are gender neutral and assexual for most of the life except for when they are in “kemmer” where partner with another person in “kemmer” and could be female or male depending on things went.  They could be the a father to one child and mother to another.  Le Guin uses the “he” pronoun for all the Getheren even though they are not male or female.  I believe it was used more simplistic reasons then insinuated that they are more male most of the time then female. It was hard as the reader to understand that, that when “he” was being used it wasn’t that the character was a male but a Genthen.

Genly Ai is an evnoy for the Ekumen.  He has come to Winter to try to get an alliance with them but things don’t go as planned.  Through out the novel he is mislead , betrayed and betrays himself.  He is lead throughout the novel by the Estrevan, first as Prime Minister and then as friend.  Ai has trouble first trusting him as he doesn’t understand where he is coming from.  Is he a friend or foe?  Ai also had to get over the human thinking of people as only one gender, which he struggles with as much as the reader does, I think.  Over time they become friends and maybe more as they work together to get the alliance done.  This was a beautifully written novel that I’m glad I read it because I don’t think ever read anything like it.

Pop Culture Homework Assignment for Beth: Language

This summer, I am sharing with Beth something that has been a passion and a profession for me: the study of language. At the end of the month, I will defend my dissertation. If it all goes well, I will have a PhD in linguistics. Language and its study have been a huge part of my life for a long time now, but the details of it haven’t really been something that I have shared with my family. I know that they know what I do, but I worry that they find the discussion of it way too boring. To be honest with you, coming up with this list felt a little self-indulgent and unfair. (So much so that I have a back up assignment, in case she protests and boycotts this one.) But, I love the work that I do and find it exciting, so I have decided to share a little bit of general linguistics with my sister (and anyone who wants to join the challenge!) this summer. The four books I have picked are half non-fiction and half fiction (huge hat-tip is Jessi Grieser on twitter for asking for book suggestions and Gretchen McCulloch for this blog post! It helped me pick the fiction on this list!).

  1. What Language Is: and What it isn’t and what it could be by John McWhorter

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John McWhorter has written a number of pop science on language and I’ve found them to be quite enjoyable. I haven’t read this one, but the reviews suggest that it will be a good introduction to what linguistics is, while also providing some fun trivia about language.

2. Left hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

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I couldn’t resist adding an Ursula K. Le Guin book to the list following our read along last February.  Le Guin uses language in interesting ways in this novel. I look forward to hearing Beth’s thoughts on the book, after having read McWhorter’s thoughts on language.

3. The Last Speakers by K. David Harrison

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Depending on how you count, there are between roughly 6,0007,000 languages in the world. For many of them, the possibility that they will still be spoken in one hundred years is slim. This book highlights that and brings attention to speakers of some vanishing languages.

4.  Embassytown by China Miéville

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Language is at the center of my final selection. Living figures of speech, a unique language humans must be modified to speak. Danger! Catastrophe! Hard choices! So fun. I can’t wait for her to read this.

In fact, I can’t wait to hear what Beth thinks about all of them!

Quick Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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Girl in Translation is the story of Kimberly Chang, an immigrant to the US from Hong Kong. It follows her from when she arrives in the States until after her high school graduation. In the novel, we follow her story as she works to balance school and her life helping her Mother with factory work after school. We see her struggle to fit in with the American students while also maintaining her home culture. We see her survive, push through, and thrive.

 

It is really great novel. I enjoyed listening to it. The audio book is read by Grayce Wey and I really liked how Wey used accent to change from inner to outer monologue. (And, I may have been imagining this, but I also liked that her accent got mellower as the novel went on.)

 

I read this as part of the #AsianLitBingo Challenge. Lit Celebrasian did a character interview with Kimberly Chang over on their blog and it is a lot of fun! You can check it out here!